After it was announced on February 20th, 2013, the PlayStation 4 has been a hot topic in the minds of gamers the world over. Promising to ring in the next generation of game consoles by showing massive support for indie games and third-party AAA games alike, the PlayStation has made it very clear that the PlayStation 4 will focus on one thing: video games. Now that Sony’s console has arrived, it’s time to see if the promises and hopes have been fulfilled.
Let’s start with the main attraction: the console itself. Measuring smaller than the original PlayStation 3 and even slightly thinner than the original PS3 Slim version, the PS4 packs a massive amount of computing in a very small package. The system also comes with the standard 500 gigabyte hard drive, but this can be replaced with your average laptop hard drive, leaving the possibilities limitless when it comes to drive space.
As far as performance goes, in my experience the console stays extremely quiet and even runs a good bit cooler than its predecessor. The only noises I’ve overheard were the system’s disc drive starting or stopping, which is to be expected.
The user interface may very well be the most extreme update that the PS4 features. With blazing fast speed and seamless transitions, the UI is a welcome change to the slow and at times clunky XMB of the PlayStation 3. Allowing you to pause games and access other features such as the PS Store, check your messages, trophies and even launch certain apps, the PS4’s UI is very similar to the PS Vita’s, which I can’t give enough praise.
One downside to the upgrades with the UI would be the apparent unchanged system used with trophies. They still require the manual update and when one unlocks, you still are not able to hit a button to quickly see why it was awarded (such as the guide button is used for Xbox achievements.) They do however display immediately now without the delay such as we see with PS3 trophies, and the sync operation does update much faster.
One of my personal favorite additions is the new ability to capture video, screenshots and even live stream games straight from your PS4. By simply hitting the new ‘Share’ button, your console instantly takes a screenshot and captures the last thirty seconds and onward of gameplay. This can be uploaded or sent via message at any point you choose. Thinking back to all the hilarious or miraculous things I witnessed in the last generation of gaming, I can only imagine what fantastic things people will be able to capture thanks to this new feature.
Broadcasting a live stream is only a few button clicks away. Once again using the share button, and then selecting ‘Broadcast’ will automatically start sending your gameplay, microphone, and even your PS Camera if you have one. You need only to log in with your Ustream or Twitch account and you’re good to go. The UI even allows for chat comments to be displayed on your screen, making communicating with your viewers all that more easy.
The newly implemented social features are a welcome change as well. With a ‘What’s New’ section that highlights you and your friend’s recent activity, everything from screenshots and video taken, to recent live stream broadcasts and trophy unlocks are displayed.
What many may consider to be the most important part of a home gaming system is the controller. Undoubtedly the most used part of any console, a good controller can make or break your enjoyment of games. The now iconic DualShock controller has remained mostly unchanged for over fifteen years, and was embraced with mixed feelings during the PS3 era. This time around, Sony has radically changed the DualShock and created what may very well be my favorite controller in my entire gaming career.
The dual sticks have been slightly adjusted allowing more room between the two, which leaves your thumbs in a much more natural and comfortable position, which also fixes the problems with your thumbs colliding on occasion as we saw with past models. A more sculpted and soft-textured feeling to the left and right grips was added, creating the feeling that the controller is conforming to your hands. The slight grip-like texture located on each of the controller’s “arms” leave you with a greater control over the device.
They have also revamped the triggers, adding a curve to each trigger button to give us nothing other than an actual trigger! The triggers require just enough force, allowing you to press with ease, but at the same time, not pressing without meaning to. Along with the new triggers, comes the new ‘share’ and ‘options’ buttons. Replacing the classic start button, ‘options’ does what its name says: accesses the options. While it does seem strange at first when a game tells you to ‘press the option button to continue’, it starts to feel more natural when the button is used for option settings more or less universally around the PlayStation 4’s games and user interface. The share button also does what it says: shares! Like I addressed earlier in this article, this allows you to broadcast, screen capture, and record video at any point in any game.
The most radical addition to the DualShock 4 is the touchpad and built-in speaker. The touchpad can also be clicked in and becomes an extra button, which is used in various ways depending on the game. For example, clicking in the pad brings up the scoreboard in Call of Duty: Ghosts, and the same action changes your robot companion’s directives in Killzone: Shadow Fall. The actual touch controls also vary from game to game. Being a simple swipe weapon change for some, to being more implemented in games like Trine 2, in which the touchpad can be used to conjure boxes or planks by drawing actual shapes. While it does feel a bit finicky in the latter, I can see with proper thought, developers could make some very interesting things with this new ‘button’.
The built-in speaker also leaves room for developer creativity. Killzone uses this feature to play any audio logs you may pick up, and KNACK even uses this to play sounds when absorbing crystal shards. If used in the same way as these titles, or even better, the small speaker can really add to the immersion of the gameplay.
The final new addition is the PlayStation Move built in light sensor. For use with the optional PlayStation camera, the added sensor essentially makes every DS4 controller a PlayStation Move peripheral. Developers have the ability to change the colors based on the current gameplay. This can be used in clever ways if properly thought out. For example, the light will slowly fade and flash to red when taking damage and dying in Killzone and in Sound Shapes, the controller’s light will pulsate with the beat of the level’s music.
With each new generation of consoles, we expect a slew of new great looking, and great playing games. While the PS4’s launch line-up may seem a bit lack-lustre, there are still some amazing titles to fire up on your next-gen console.
Killzone yet again sets a visual standard with console shooters. Looking better than ever, with sharp textures and amazing lighting effects, Killzone: Shadow Fall is a must play for FPS fans or graphics junkies. While the storyline feels a bit flat, and some sections come across as unpolished and rushed, the game is still worth a play; if only to experience the beauty Guerrilla Games has created.
Free with your PS Plus subscription or trial, which the PS4 comes packed with, you receive Contrast and Resogun. Contrast is a platformer which is set in an art deco world featuring the game mechanic of merging with shadows in order to progress. This simple and interesting game has been one of the most charming little adventures to be featured on the PlayStation Network. The other title, Resogun, is a hectic ‘bullet-hell’ title featuring gorgeous visuals with break-neck speed and difficulty, sure to please even the most hardcore retro gamer.
Of course the PS4 features games released for both current and next-gen systems, such as Assassin’s Creed IV, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4. While I haven’t had a chance to play every cross-platform title, I can say Call of Duty: Ghosts looks dramatically different when compared between current and next-gen consoles. The game is sharp, clean, and performs wonderfully.
In the end, the PlayStation 4 brings in the next generation with speed, style, and comfort. Featuring the fastest and most responsive user-interface I’ve ever used, along with a controller that can only be described as ‘comfy’, the future looks bright for Sony’s latest console. While the launch games may be lacking, with the promise of in-depth indie support and over one-hundred titles currently in development, the flood of games is sure to come.